HEALTH experts and civil society organisations have warned of a possible spike in COVID-19 cases due to reckless behaviour by citizens who are moving around without masks and ignoring social distancing regulations.

BY PATRICIA SIBANDA/ SILAS NKALA

This became more pronounced on Monday after police eased patrols and removed roadblocks in Bulawayo, while in rural areas, funeral gatherings are exceeding 50 people.

Since Monday, Bulawayo experienced an influx of people in the city centre as police removed roadblocks which helped restrict movement and enforce wearing of face masks.

A survey done by Southern Eye yesterday in the central business district established that people were gathering at supermarkets, banks, and Zupco buses pick-up points without masks.

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) chairperson Ambrose Sibindi advised citizens to stay at home and observe lockdown regulations to avert disaster.

“As BPRA, we urge people to stay at home and they should adhere to the World Health Organisation and government laws. You find people in the streets handshaking and hugging when they should be maintaining social distance as much as possible,” he said.

Sibindi said people should also note that the health sector was not yet ready to treat COVID-19 cases and isolation centres were still being refurbished.

“Ekusileni Medical Centre and other isolation centres are still under renovations, hence we should consider that the country is still far from winning the war. Residents’ behaviour is unacceptable, they should introspect and realise that their behaviour has catastrophic consequences,” he said.

Civic group Habakkuk Trust said its community advocacy action teams conducted surveys in parts of rural Matabeleland and established that villagers were attending funerals in large numbers, exceeding the stipulated 50.

“Living and working together is the lifeline of rural communities.

While it has been easier for the urban populace to adhere to lockdown regulations, rural communities are going out in their large numbers to give a send-off to their departed and in most instances failing to exercise social distancing and wearing masks,” the trust said in a report on Tuesday.

“Over 200 community members on Monday attended a burial in Matobo ward 1. Community advocacy action team members who also attended the funeral expressed concern over the limited understanding of the need to adhere to the COVID-19 precautionary regulations. They observed that few people were wearing face masks and social distancing was not being practised at the funeral.”

Action team member in Matobo, Sibinginkosi Ndlovu, said mourners also flouted lockdown regulations in ward 14 as they were shaking hands and hugging.

Linos Khumalo, convener for Bulilima ward 10 Habakkuk action team, said people were being turned away at a funeral, but still did not to comply. The situation was similar in Nkayi district’s ward 29.

“Pastors and local leaders have been playing a key role in providing information and raising awareness on coronavirus at funerals. Local communities have expressed the need for face masks, which have since become expensive and beyond the reach of many,” the report read.

Habakkuk Trust said conflicting messages on the use of home-made masks on social media had led to villagers not using them on the grounds that they do not prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said police were not to blame for people’s reckless misbehaviour.

“People should comply with the laws that were put forward for them, they should be able to do it on their own and adhere to the mitigations on their own. People should behave well because most of the people put on their masks when they hear or see that police officers are around,” Ncube said.

“They should know that the mitigations were put in place to protect us from COVID-19.”

Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Solwayo Ngwenya on Tuesday warned that a disaster was looming as residents were flouting lockdown regulations.

Ngwenya also tweeted that there was a need for the lockdown to be extended to August so as to enable citizens to pass the cold weather period in isolation since the disease is most dangerous during cold weather.

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